Dissing Mother Teresa

Journalist and food critic Chitrita Banerji has written an interesting op-ed piece on Calcutta in today’s New York Times that’s not all too favorable to Mother Teresa.

Banerji takes issue with the media, the Catholic Church and above all Mother Teresa for reducing Calcutta into a caricature of poverty, starvation and suffering without any mention of its rich cultural and literary life, beautiful buildings, educated middle class or religious tolerance.

For Calcutta natives like me, however, Mother Teresa’s charity also evoked the colonial past — she felt she knew what was best for the third world masses, whether it was condemning abortion or offering to convert those who were on the verge of death.

Banerji is not pleased that even 10 years after Mother Teresa’s death, the ugly image of Calcutta as the epicenter of destitution and suffering continues to persist.

Calcutta is a modern Indian city where poverty and inequality coexist with measurably increasing prosperity, expanding opportunities, cautious optimism and, above all, pride in its unique character. Mother Teresa might have meant well, but she furthered her mission by robbing Calcutta of its richly nuanced identity while pretending to love it.

Amid all the hiagiography of Mother Teresa, Banerji dares to make a dissenting – and compelling – argument.

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